I have been living in Porto for 5 weeks now and had my first insights on the Portuguese culture. There are a lot of habits that people from Porto have, that are very different from the habits we have in the Netherlands. Also there are some typical foods and drinks that you need to have tried when you are visiting Porto.
Porto culture in foods
Francesinha! The food typical for Porto and not any other city in Portugal. And the people from Porto are I think proudest of this one. Francesinha can be made in a lot of different combinations of meat and sauce. The meats that can be on the Francesinha are steak, ham, roasted meats and different kinds of sausages. The whole sandwich is covered in cheese and sometimes topped with a baked egg. On top of all that there is a sauce. All restaurants make this sauce based on beer and tomato, but all have other ingredients that they use as well. Restaurants are reviewed on the meat combination and sauce in order to become the best one. I went to Restaurant Santiago, my Portuguese friend told me that this one is rated as one of the bests in Porto. And an important suggestion when you want to eat it: order it together and share or order just half. It is so solid; you will feel full quickly!
Other foods that are very typical are bacalhau and sardines (and basically any other kind of seafood). Bacalhau is codfish that has bathed in salt water for a couple of days. You can choose yourself how salty you want your fish, based on that they will take out the fish later or earlier. Sardines are typical because they are caught in the sea near Porto, which makes it a local dish. Porto is a real sea city, so in the end basically every kind of seafood is ‘typical’ for Porto.
I also noticed something that is kind of strange to me: every meal is served with rice ánd fries. In a Dutch restaurant it is usually one of these, but here you will always get both.
Next to food there is one particular drink that made Porto most famous I think: Porto wine (in Dutch ‘port’). We all know this drink (I read some article that The Netherlands imports 17% of all port production in Porto 😉 ), although maybe not everyone has tried it or likes it. Actually, before coming here I tried to drink Porto wine, but I really did not like it. When I was here of course I went to do a wine tasting, and I loved it! Next to that I probably tried some of the best Porto wines they have, I also think the environment where you drink is very important. So if you like Porto wine or not, go try some anyway! You might be surprised!
Porto culture in habits
There are some habits that we (I think) all know from the southern countries of Europe: everyone is always late and eating times are very late (at least compared to The Netherlands). Maybe this is not true about every southern country, but it is definitely true for Porto!
When meeting people, it does not matter if it is for the first time or it is your friends, you kiss twice on the cheeks. Kissing people I do not know and meet for the first time is still kind of strange to me. When meeting friends, I like it that everyone really takes time to say hello to each other.
Something I do not like so much is the habit of Portuguese people on the sidewalk. It seems to me that they always think they are the only ones that are using the sidewalk. Of course not every Portuguese behaves like this, but I did notice that most do. When you cross someone, they will not step aside until the last moment or just wait for you to step aside. When you walk behind multiple people that walk next to each other, but you can not pass, they will not step aside. Even when they see that you walk behind them, they seem to think that is your problem to solve, not theirs.
The good thing about the the sidewalks is that they are always very clean. A lot of sidewalks are broken up and never fixed, but if they are good, they are also clean. Apparently the government cleans it very well. I do not know how often, but sometimes I see men walking around to sweeping the rubbish and cleaning the sidewalk with a hose even outside tourist areas.
As I wrote about how Portuguese people are always so nice and helpful (link), I found out that there is a big difference between young and older people. It seems that the older the people are, the more ‘closed’ they are. So when you want to ask something, try to find someone more young 😉
The no-heating culture
Also, I found an answer to my question in my first blog about why there is no heating in Portuguese houses after asking an architect: a time long ago, when most of the houses were build, the people were poor and they did not really need it because the climate was different: the winters were not as cold as they are now. Now it is cold in winter, and that is also why in the new houses heating is build in.
- To find the best Francesinha without having to try them all: http://catavino.net/best-francesinha-in-portugal/
- To know about Portuguese traditions when eating, talking and getting to know more about socializing in their culture: http://www.learn-portuguese-with-rafa.com/portuguese-traditions.html